Is traveling the world one of your dreams? If it is then you have a huge trait in common with these famous Arab travelers.
Remember though that traveling the world back then was not by any means what it is now, these travelers had no airplanes to fly them from one destination to another, and no luxurious hotels to stay in.
The journey was fraught with danger and excitement, and maybe that is why it was an adventure like nothing you can experience today.
Let’s meet some of the most famous Arab travelers in history.
Probably the most famous among all famous Arab travelers, Ibn Battuta started his extensive travels with the purpose of performing pilgrimage at the city of Mecca in 1325 before he was even 22 years old. He traveled the world and came back to die in his country around 1368-69.
Born in Tangiers in 1304, Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta was a judge, a botanist, a geographer, and most importantly, he was the greatest Arab traveler of all time.
At the request of Sultan Abu Inan, Ibn Battuta dictated his travel stories to an official at the court of the Sultan called Ibn Djozay. And that is how they have been saved through the years.
Ibn Battuta’s account of his travels, from Tangiers through over forty countries, has been translated to many languages and read by millions of people.
Although he saw numerous ups and downs in his trips, working as a judge and an advisor to the sultan one day and being a fugitive with no more than the clothes on his back another day, his love for traveling and exploring never wavered. He didn’t settle when things were going great for him and he never gave up when they weren’t.
If we can learn one thing from Ibn Battuta it would be to never give up on our true passion.
Shihab al-Din Ahmad ibn Majid al-Najdi was born in a sea-faring family in the early 1430s in a small town which is now in the U.A.E. but was then a part of Oman.
As he descended from a long line of navigators and scholars, he became interested in the sea at an early age. He was educated on the ways of the sea along with studying the Holy Quran; both subjects shaped his personality as a sailor and a writer.
Ibn Majid was a navigator, a cartographer, an explorer, a writer, and a poet. He wrote many books about marine science and navigation, and numerous poems.
Dubbed ‘The Lion of the Sea’, many people believe that Ibn Majid was the guide that led Vasco da Gama to find his way from the east coast of Africa to India around the Cape of Good Hope. And many believe he was the real navigator on whom the stories of Sindbad are based.
What is known for sure however is that he was a legendary seaman whose books helped shape many maps and are considered true navigation gems.
The exact date of his death is not certain, but ibn Majid probably died in 1500 because that was the documented date of his last poem, he never wrote anything after that date.
Muhammad Abu Al Qasim Ibn Hawqal was born and raised in Iraq. Since his childhood, he was very much interested in reading about voyages, explorations, travelogues, and itineraries, and learning about the life of distant tribes and nations.
When he grew up, he decided to make a life out of learning about the world. He started his journey in 943 and visited numerous countries. He even had to travel on foot many times.
The countries he visited include North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, and finally Sicily where all traces of him were lost.
The many travels of Ibn Hawqal are described in his renowned book entitled A Book of Routes and Realms. And even though he described all the countries he’s been to in detail, many historians don’t take his account as fact because of his love for humor and funny anecdotes.
Whether his perception of the countries was accurate or not though does not negate the fact that he was one of the most famous Arab travelers.
Born in Valencia, Ibn Jubair was a geographer, a traveler, and a poet from al-Andalus. His travel journal describes the pilgrimage he made to Mecca from 1183 to 1185. He passed several cities on his way there and back. And he gives a detailed account of all of them.
One of the most significant elements of his stories is that he clearly describes life in the cities that were formerly a part of Andalusia but have been conquered by Christian kings. He also describes Egypt under the leadership of Salah El-Din.
Maybe he did not travel in as many journeys as other famous Arab travelers but his journey was very important and enlightening indeed.